John Newton’s most (not) famous hymn, frowning providence and my sin

Water for Sale

Just came back from young adults bible study, where among other things Joe pointed out that one of the reasons God brings trials into our life is to reveal our sins, so that we might put our trust in God, and grow in faith and love and purity.

I needed this reminder several times over tonight.

Practically it means that the tough day at the office might be God’s frowning providence to point out my lack of trust in Him.

It means one reason God ordained an ongoing struggle could be to expose my false belief I can do everything in my own strength.

It means one reason God gave us the funeral-like dinnertime with the baby and each other (weeping and gnashing included) was perhaps to reveal my pride and selfishness in wanting things done my way, and lacking trust when the script changes.

The Bible is honest enough to tell me that God sets us in slippery places sometimes to reveal our need to change. “When my soul was embittered, when I was pricked in heart, I was brutish and ignorant; I was like a beast toward You.” (Psalm 73:21-22) That’s me more often than I realise.

John Newton wrote a hymn that addresses God’s design in dark providences. Sadly it is not nearly as well known as Amazing Grace, yet the truth in it is enriching, spiritual meat my soul needs often, especially now:


1. I asked the Lord that I might grow
In faith and love and every grace
Might more of His salvation know
And seek more earnestly His face

2. Twas He who taught me thus to pray
And He I trust has answered prayer
But it has been in such a way
As almost drove me to despair

3. I hoped that in some favoured hour
At once He’d answer my request
And by His love’s constraining power
Subdue my sins and give me rest

4. Instead of this He made me feel
The hidden evils of my heart

And let the angry powers of Hell
Assault my soul in every part

5. Yea more with His own hand He seemed
Intent to aggravate my woe
Crossed all the fair designs I schemed,
Cast out my feelings, laid me low

6. Lord why is this, I trembling cried
Wilt Thou pursue thy worm to death?
“Tis in this way” The Lord replied
“I answer prayer for grace and faith”

7. “These inward trials I employ
From self and pride to set thee free
And break thy schemes of earthly joy
That thou mayest seek thy all in me.”

(Here are two versions of this hymn I enjoy)

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